Pastor’s ponderings

Ash Wednesday is next week, on March 2nd.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday service being placed in our United Methodist Book of Worship.  Yes, that’s right, we’ve only recognized this ritual practice as being official for the past 30 years.  In fact, it really wasn’t until the 20th century that it became a popular means for starting the season of Lent.  In other words, it is a new “tradition” within the church, that reflects upon the past in an effort to understand our future.

            When humanity was banished from the Garden of Eden, God noted that, “…you are dust, and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:19, NRSV).  The word that is used for dust here is also sometimes recorded as “ash,” hence why ashes are used in a typical Ash Wednesday service.  The use of dust or ashes are to serve as a reminder of who created us and to whom we will return when our life here on earth is completed.  It is a solemn reminder that we are mortal and that we have not always elevated ourselves above the status of being anything more than dirt as our sin holds us back from doing so.

            Yet, let us also remember that Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time in which we reflect on what Jesus did.  Forty days in the wilderness wherein his faith was being tested.  Three years in ministry among people who the rest of society said should be ignored.  A week that began with a glorious celebration as he entered the gates of Jerusalem and concluded with him dying on a cross and being placed in a tomb.  All things that he did for us, for humanity, for all humankind, that we may be lifted up beyond our earthly station.  These actions are critical for us to understand as disciples.  They are crucial in our following Christ’s example.  As such, we spend the season of Lent in reflection of them all. We observe practices such as fasting, repentance, moderation, and other spiritual disciplines, in an attempt to grasp how far Christ was willing to go for us, to reclaim our relationship with the one who willingly died for us.

            But, this year we will not have an Ash Wednesday service in our parish.  So, how will you prepare your heart, mind, and spirit for the season that lies before us?  How will you take the time reflect on where you are in your faith journey?  How will you reflect on what Christ has done for you as we work our way toward Easter?  What new tradition will you create to mark this season in your life?  These past several years have called us to new things, to rise from the ashes we might say.  Perhaps it is time for us to ponder what new tradition will lead us into the future as we walk with Jesus on the road toward Jerusalem.

                                                                        Always pondering,

                                                                        Pastor Steve

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